5 Important Tips for Choosing a Website Host

Connie Mace, blog manager for the Northwest Christian Writers Association, picked my brain about social media marketing questions that perplex writers and authors. This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

Part 1: Essential Elements of a Powerful Online Presence (for Authors)

 

Connie Mace: Are there specific “beware of” signs when choosing a website host?

 Laura Christianson: Oh, you’ve struck a nerve here, Connie! Five key things a website host should do:

1.     Use the latest, greatest software.

2.     Be inexpensive.

3.     Have an “uptime” of close to 100%.

4.     Offer excellent customer service.

5.     Offer a grace period for forgetful customers.

Let’s explore each of these points.

1. Software

The problem with many “free” hosts is that they use outdated software, which prevents the site’s owner from making necessary changes and upgrades. It irritates me that these companies prey on people’s general lack of technical skill and hold their websites hostage.

2. Cost

I also get angry at website hosts that offer to “build your site for free,” and then charge you $40 or more per month for “hosting and maintenance.”

One man I know – who manages a prominent Seattle-area business – told me he signed up for a “free” website design, and he pays ONLY $150 per month for hosting.

This is wrong.

You can and should find an excellent website host for $8-12/month (many hosts give you a hefty discount for paying for a year’s hosting when you sign up).

3. Uptime

A good website host will list their “network uptime” percentage – in other words, what percentage of the day your website is supposedly guaranteed to be online. I’m not sure how any host can guarantee 100% uptime (remember Amazon’s massive server outage in April that completely disabled major websites across the Internet?).

We can’t control catastrophic hardware failures, power outages, and natural disasters. But if I had my choice of hosting my website with a company that guarantees 60% uptime as opposed to a host who guarantees 99.9% uptime, I’d go with the 99.9%.

4. Customer Service

When you have a problem with your website, you need to be able to call a customer service representative who will answer the phone and speak understandable English. Since website disasters inevitably occur after business hours, it’s helpful to have 24/7 customer service.

Before you sign up with a web host, call their customer service line.

  • How long did you wait before someone picked up? ‘
  • Did a real person answer the phone?
  • Did the person answer your question knowledgeably, patiently, and politely?

5. Grace Period

We recently created a website for a client who had forgotten to renew hosting for her old website.

On her renewal date, guess what happened to her website? POOF! It disappeared into cyberspace, never to be seen again.

When we politely requested that her host reinstate her site, they replied, “Too bad, so sad.” Her domain name had also expired, but thankfully, they agreed to reinstate it. However, it took our team two full weeks and many hours on the phone to make it happen. (Needless to say, that company no longer hosts her website nor is her domain name registered with them.)

Some website hosting companies will grant you a grace period during which they’ll keep your site and your domain name live (after all, they want your business.) But others won’t. So when you receive emails from your hosting company reminding you that your website hosting and/or domain is up for renewal, be proactive about renewing.

Bonus Tip about Domain Name Renewal

Another sneaky thing some domain registrars do is to send “you must renew immediately” notices to unsuspecting website owners. This happened to one of our clients. He received a notice (from a registrar other than the one his website’s domain name was registered with) telling him that his domain name was about to expire and that he needed to renew it, now. For “only” $150 for one year.

In a panic, he renewed.

Then he contacted me. I explained to him that 1) his renewal date is actually not coming up for quite some time; 2) his website hosting with our preferred provider includes a free renewal of his domain name, and 3) even if he had needed to renew his domain name, it should cost in the neighborhood of $10/year to renew, not $150.

“You were a victim of highway robbery,” I informed him. Perhaps I should have called it, “Information Superhighway Robbery.”

Our client is now attempting to get a refund from the domain name registrar that attempted to scam him.

I, too, routinely receive messages from domain name registrars encouraging me to “renew immediately.” We receive these messages because most of us publicly display our contact information in the WHOIS database of all registered domains. Registrar companies routinely scour the WHOIS database to see which domains are due to expire in three months or so, and then they e-mail the registrant in an attempt to get their business.

Be aware of this when you receive notifications to renew, and unless the notice comes from your own registrar, ignore it.

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At Blogging Bistro, we partner with two excellent website hosting companies, and our website hosting contracts include a WordPress.org (self-hosted) blog embedded into your website. Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about our hosting packages.

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